movements are interesting, supernatural
by elise moreau
Ever since I was little, I have always been infatuated with Beethoven’s famous piano solo, “Fur Elise”.
I remember when I was sitting on the floor in a circle with my music class in grade 2, my music teacher started talking about a famous piano solo written by Beethoven.
“It’s named after someone in this class,” she said. I looked down at the floor thinking to myself, “It’s definitely not me.”
Then, to my surprise, she looked at me and said, “Elise!”
From then on, I’ve always loved this piece, even though I’ve annoyed myself by listening to it so much and spending my time in elementary school trying to learn it. I always felt like this was “my piece.” I did end up learning it and playing it for a piano recital, but I haven’t played it in years. I would have to re-learn some parts of it.
There’s no doubt about it that Beethoven is one of the most famous composers of all time, and “Fur Elise” is one of his most well-known piano solos. A beautiful piece, the three-page long Bagatelle in A-minor has been played all over the world and social media, even found to be popular as a downloadable mobile phone ringtone.Thousands upon thousands of piano players over the past couple of centuries have bought up Fur Elise sheet music, tapes, and CDs to enjoy for themselves.
Although the piece can still be heard very often these days, many don’t know about the mystery that surrounded it. The manuscript of Beethoven’s Fur Elise was not discovered until 40 years after he passed, so there was no way to identify the exact origins of the piece. From the German language, “Fur Elise” translates directly to “For Elise,” suggesting an obvious dedication. Historians and researchers never did identify exactly who “Elise” was.
Just recently, a German musicologist claimed that he finally discovered the true identity of the mysterious woman from Fur Elise. Renowned “Beethoven expert,” Klaus Martin Kopitz, says that the woman of Beethoven’s famous dedication went by the full name of Elisabeth Roecekl (1793 – 1883).
According to Koptiz, Elisabeth was a German soprano and sister to the tenor, Joseph August Roeckel, who played the part of Florestan from a performance of “Fidelio,” which he conducted in Vienna during 1806.
In 1807, Elisabeth accompanied her brother to Vienna where joined the composer’s inner circle. Later on in life, she had actually married Beethoven’s friend and musical rival, composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel.
Kopitz explained that Elisabeth was also known by the shorter name, Elise. This has been backed up by an entry in the christening records of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, located in Vienna. At the time of christening, she was named “Maria Eva Elise,” suggesting the fact that she was most likely known as “Elise” in Vienna, as opposed to “Elisabeth.”
As Kopitz goes on, he explains that both Beethoven and Elise shared a close friendship when he wrote Fur Elise in 1810. There was no other woman in Beethoven’s life by the name of Elise. There was also evidence noting that Elisabeth communicated that “during a dinner party,” Beethoven “would pinch my arm out of sheer affection.” Before Beethoven’s death in 1827, Elise had even kept a lock of his hair and allowed herself to be presented with one of his final quills.
Elise’s Musical Tip For The Day: To me, this discovery has opened my eyes completely. Listen to the piece. You can actually “feel” the different emotions in the piece. It starts out slow and beautiful, perhaps Beethoven is trying to express Elise’s gentle personality or nature. The piece suddenly changes, to a fast and almost angry state. In my interpretation, maybe Beethoven is expressing his jealousy and anger toward Hummel, his rival and husband of Elise. Then, the piece returns to its original melody, maybe suggesting that even through Beethoven’s jealousy, he still loves and respects her. The piece goes on to change to a playful sound, which could reflect the good times that Beethoven and Elise spent together as friends. Finally, the piece returns to the main melody once again to finish the piece.
It’s interesting to make your own interpretations of music, especially with some knowledge about the history of the piece and the composer. See if you can understand what I mean by listening to the piece, or listen to some other classical pieces and try to interpret them for yourself.